The question about whether the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased to function is a “hot topic” in the current theological world. John MacArthur recently attacked the charismatic movement as “heretical” and devilish. Needless to say, the response has been “lively.” It is an important discussion.
This series of articles is in response to an article by Joel McDurmon Head of Research at American Vision in Powder Springs, Ga. Contra “church history” and the creeds, McDurmon claims that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, does not discuss the end of miracles gifts of the Holy Spirit in an objective sense. He goes further and claims that 1 Corinthians 13 has no eschatological content: “I think that the whole endeavor to see 1 Corinthians 13:9ff as an indicator of any major eschatological, doctrinal, covenantal, or revelatory shift is to miss the point of the passage entirely.” Be sure to read my book, Into All The World, Then Comes The End, for a fuller discussion of the issue.
McDurmon claims that the focus and purpose of the revelatory gifts was (is) to bring the individual believer to “that which is perfect”- the time of the spiritual maturity of the gifted individual. When the individual believer arrived (arrives) at that point of maturity, the gifts cease in his / her life, but, not in the life of corporate church.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4
In response to McDurmon’s emphasis on the individual believer, we introduced Ephesians 4:8-16:
“ Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Another devastating point in refutation of McDurmon’s view of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is that Paul anticipated the arrival of “the faith.” It is important to note that Paul uses the definite article “the” with faith. He was not looking for the time when all believers would believe the same thing. This idea is dispelled by McDurmon’s own view.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit– Looking For “The Faith”
If Paul was saying that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to bring about the spiritual maturation of the gifted individuals, but if all believers do not possess the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then Paul’s stated purpose for the impartation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to bring “we all” to that desired goal can never be achieved. If one says that “No, the gifts were given to some individuals to bring the “we all” to that desired goal of maturity,” then this is a tacit admission of the corporate focus of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It admits that some were given the gifts of the Holy Spirit to bring the entire corporate body to maturity. This point falsifies McDurmon’s focus on the individual.
But, what is, or was “the faith” that was the goal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Galatians 3 is helpful:
“But before (the) faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed (literally, the about to be revealed the faith -from mello) Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after (the) faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
Note that Paul uses the definite article to speak of “the faith” which was the goal of Old Covenant prophecy. It should go without saying that personal, individual faith was not that goal! That is part of Paul’s point as he discussed Abraham’s personal faith. But, there is something else, something objective at work in the prophetic expectation.
Paul was saying that the system of justification by faith– i.e. the gospel “system” if you will, was the focus of that prophetic faith. The law (Torah) could not, ever, justify by faith! See Galatians 3:20-21). But, as Paul said in Romans 3:21, even Torah itself anticipated the coming of a system, a covenant, of justification by faith, apart from Torah. In other words, Torah foretold the Gospel of Christ, which is the good news that man is now justified by having the kind of faith exhibited by Abraham. That is “the faith” to which Torah pointed in Galatians 3.
And notice that Paul said “the faith” foretold by Torah, was “about to be revealed” (ten mellousan pistin apokalupenai– “the about to be revealed the faith”). This fits Ephesians 4 very well.
In Ephesians Paul said the gifts had been given to bring the church (“we all”) to “the faith.” In Galatians he said “the faith” was about to be revealed.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Corporate Goal of The Faith
Now, it is evident, is it not, that Paul did not have individuals as the focus when he spoke of “the faith” in Galatians 3? He was focused on an objective, corporate goal. He said “we” were kept under Torah.” That “we” cannot be limited to specific individuals, but, is clearly referent to the corporate body of Israel. So, Israel, corporately, was kept under Torah until the “revelation” of “the faith” which would arrive at the end of Torah.
The question therefore is proper: Did Paul have a different “the faith” in mind in Ephesians from that in Galatians? In both Ephesians and Galatians, there was a corporate goal: Ephesians 4 was “until we all come to, the unity of the faith.” In Galatians 3, Israel was kept under Torah “until the revelation of “the faith.” And the revelation of “the faith” that was about to take place when Paul wrote.
Unless one is able to demonstrate exegetically that Paul was writing of two totally different “the faiths” in the two texts, then this proves that “the faith” was not individual spiritual maturity as posited by McDurmon. And unless one is able to negate “the faith” as the goal of “we all” in Ephesians, and “the faith” as the goal in Galatians, then this amounts to prima facie falsification of Joel McDurmon’s denial of the corporate purpose and function of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Paul’s “One Hope” -The Hope of Israel
A quick point here: Someone may argue that in Ephesians 4 Paul speaks of “the faith” as the goal of the body of Christ, while in Galatians 3 he speaks of “the faith” as the prophetic goal of Torah and Israel, as if this was two different goals. But, this is a false dichotomy. Paul did not know of two eschatological goals, two “hopes”, or two “the faiths.” His gospel was nothing but the hope of Israel found in the Old Covenant (Acts 24:14f; 26:21f).
So, Ephesians 4 was focused on the body of Christ, comprised at the time of the righteous remnant of Israel, and the Gentiles called into Israel’s promises. It was in that context that Paul could write “Israel has not attained that for which she sought, but the elect has obtained it, and the rest were blinded” (Romans 11:7– See my MP3 series on this great text, available here). So, those in Christ, who were dying to Torah, were coming into “the faith” and were eagerly awaiting the full arrival of the New Covenant, New Creation that had been initiated in them. Paul is not speaking of two different sets of promises in Ephesians or Galatians. He is speaking of the same “the faith” that Torah foretold, and that was now, when Paul wrote, “about to be revealed.” This proves beyond doubt that McDurmon’s focus on the individual possession of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, until a point of personal spiritual maturity, is specious and untenable.
More to come, as we look closer at the goal of the “we all” in Ephesians 4. In the meantime, check out MacArthur’s book: